An economic challenge
Diesel expenditure, which tends to increase with rising energy prices, represents approximately 10 % of mechanisation costs. This significant item also corresponds to a regular expense, which is more tangible and easier to measure than total mechanisation costs, an item to which many farmers are very sensitive. Consumption naturally depends on the type of equipment, on its use and maintenance, and on the type of crop and production (higher for beetroot and animal husbandry, for example). The overall level is also strongly impacted by the type of soil and the intensity of tillage.
An environmental challenge
Development of new farming practices such as simplified cultivation techniques or direct seeding makes it possible to significantly reduce soil disturbance caused by agricultural machinery. It is therefore logical that a single tractor operation, compared to 4 or 5, will significantly reduce fuel oil consumption. Greenhouse gas production is also higher with conventional tillage than with simplified cultivation techniques or direct seeding.
Reduced traction power requirements, combined with less hours of work, gives rise to a drop of almost 50% in fuel oil consumption. Along with the drop in fuel consumption, farmers also produce less greenhouse gases, with a drop in the vicinity of 161 kg of CO2/hectare and therefore no resuspension of carbon.
Reduced fuel oil consumption therefore involves less work using heavy machinery in the field. This is also a significant agronomic challenge: improving biodiversity and preservation of habitats, while ensuring less ecosystem disturbance. Soil structure is improved given that there is less compaction. >>> Promoting biodiversity areas
From reduced consumption to energy independence
Today fuel and energy represent a significant proportion of input costs for farmers. Moreover, given that farmers are located in rural areas, the costs to make fuel and energy available are also very high.
Farmers need to reduce risks and to ensure that operating costs stay as low as possible. They want independence and stability to improve management of their farms.
Farmers generally have a lot of available space, along with significant quantities of resources that can be used to produce energy.
Energy independence is a new approach that will allow farmers to produce their own energy for their farms and agricultural equipment. This is done by using hydrogen, which is entirely generated from renewable resources that farmers have in abundance.
Analysis of the New Holland project
With the independence concept, farmers can dispense with outside resources by producing the different energies they need. In this case, the New Holland pilot farm will produce biogas, heat, photovoltaic electricity and hydrogen. No outside energy is needed.
Hydrogen production and use are undeniably the most original aspect of the project. Produced by electrolysis via photovoltaic electricity or biogas, hydrogen powers the three fuel cells of the NH2 tractor, with water as the only product released into the atmosphere.
- Generating electricity. Electric energy is generated from renewable and free sources such as wind energy, photovoltaic energy or biomass, depending on their availability on farms.
- Converting electricity to hydrogen: the electrolyser. Electrolysis technology is used to obtain hydrogen and oxygen from water. In fact, a source of water and of oxygen is needed.
- Hydrogen storage: hydrogen is safely stored on the farm, in high-pressure tanks. It is then ready to be used as clean and free fuel. Hydrogen is an efficient energy vector. It works like a battery by accumulating energy. It is more advantageous and cleaner than a conventional battery: no waste. Refuelling is very easy. It takes just 5 minutes to fill the tank, compared to hours of charging for batteries. There are no carbon emissions, which results in reduced greenhouse gas levels.
- The first hydrogen and electric tractor is not only a prototype. It is a functional tractor with a hydrogen tank and fuel cells producing electricity to power electric motors which allow the tractor to work.
- With this tractor, farmers will be able to do all their work with farm-produced hydrogen.
- Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (capture of CH4 in effluents + improved fertilising value + replacement of fossil energy) = 110 to 140 kg of CO2/inbound T
- Production of renewable energy
- Reduction of pollution due to nitrogen leaching
- Local and sustainable waste management
- Deodorisation of digestate
- Sale of heat and electricity
- Production of digestate with high agronomic value
- Reduction of mineral fertiliser consumption
The indicators linked to these BMPs are the following:
- Production costs
- Energy balance
- Greenhouse gas balance
Sources : chamb-agri.com - agriculture.newholland.com